Local News

Cumberland DA wants deeper probe of DSS in girl's death

Posted September 22, 2010 5:09 p.m. EDT
Updated September 22, 2010 5:35 p.m. EDT

Shaniya Nicole Davis

— Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis said Wednesday that he's dissatisfied with a state investigation into the county's social services department after a 5-year-old girl was kidnapped, raped and killed last year.

"I do not feel that the crucial issues involved in this investigation have been sufficiently answered," Grannis said in a letter to the State Bureau of Investigation. "I am, therefore, requesting the assistance of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office to assist me in resolving remaining questions which I have concerning the Cumberland County Department of Social Services."

Grannis and Fayetteville Police Chief Tom Bergamine requested the SBI investigation last December after questions were raised about the county’s contact with the family of Shaniya Davis before her disappearance. The SBI turned its findings over to Grannis last Friday.

Shaniya was reported missing from her Fayetteville home on Nov. 10. Her body was found in a patch of kudzu off a rural road near the Lee-Harnett County line six days later.

An autopsy determined that she died of asphyxiation and that injuries she suffered were consistent with a sexual assault. A medical examiner noted in the autopsy that investigators believe the girl was used to pay off a drug debt.

Mario Andrette McNeill, 29, of 2613 Pine Springs Drive, has been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree rape of a child and first-degree kidnapping in the case. Police have characterized him as a family acquaintance.

Shaniya's mother, Antoinette Nicole Davis, 25, has been charged with human trafficking, felony child abuse–prostitution, filing a false police report and obstructing a police investigation. Arrest warrants state that Davis "did knowingly provide Shaniya with the intent that she be held in sexual servitude" and "did permit an act of prostitution with Shaniya."

The Cumberland County Department of Social Services previously looked at Davis with regard to her 7-year-old son, not Shaniya, according to her uncle, Michael Davis. The case was closed, and Antoinette Davis was able to retain custody of the boy, her uncle said.

Grannis and Bergamine expressed concerns that DSS case workers were withholding information in the case.

DSS Director Brenda Jackson has previously declined to comment on the agency's involvement with the family, citing the investigation into the death and confidentiality rules for child welfare cases.